We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Daniel Im regarding his newly released book, No Silver Bullets. There may not be a silver bullet when it comes to discipleship, but this book is a must-read bullet to put in the barrel of your disciple-making environments. Daniel Im has created an incredibly insightful and practically helpful work that I will read several times over both alone and with our team. If you’re wondering how you or your church can become effective at the mission Jesus gave us, this book is for you.
What inspired you to write this book?
I wrote No Silver Bullets to address a particular dilemma that I continue to observe regardless of the size, context, or culture of a church or ministry. After pastoring in three countries, six different cities, and helping thousands of pastors around the world, I noticed a pattern with the way churches were typically led and ministries were run.
We often lead the way we’ve been led, disciple the way we’ve been discipled, and teach the way we’ve been taught…unless we consciously decide to do otherwise. And with the accelerated pace of life, the unceasing demands of ministry, and the relentless fact that Sunday is always around the corner, who has the luxury of time to stop, audit, and make systemic changes to the way we lead, disciple, and teach?
This is why the myth of the silver bullet still exists today. The truth is, we want it, we need it, and we think we must have it NOW because we’ve been conditioned for the instant. It’s our hidden addiction. As a result, the five small shifts that I outline in this book are not silver bullets by any means. Nor are they mere theory or conjecture. They are simply micro-shifts that have the potential to produce macro-change in your church. At the end of the day, I see it as my mission to be a guide on the side. As a number two guy, or second chair leader to you and your team, I want to help you unlock new levels of maturity and growth in your church. And the way to get there is by starting with the way you disciple.
Who is this book for?
This book is for pastors and leaders who are looking to re-energize their ministry by implementing small shifts that will make a BIG difference. It’s for leadership teams who are wanting to design and implement a discipleship pathway that works for their church. It’s for disciple makers who are frustrated with a me-centered Christianity and want to learn how to develop other disciple makers. And, really, it’s for anyone who realizes that there are no perfect models and no one right way of doing ministry or leading a church.
How have you seen these micro-shifts work in your own church and ministry?
In order to develop a church culture where pastors aren’t the only disciple-makers, I’ve had to learn how to lead up, across, and down. As a result, each of the micro-shifts outlined in this book are a result of personal trial and error in the trenches, conversations with people ranging from high capacity lay leaders to thought leaders, and a lot of study and reflection. By no means is this book a silver bullet that will solve all your woes, but I do believe (and have seen) these micro-shifts lead to macro-change in many churches, ministries, and lives.
For example, how often have you imported a model from another church, only to import another one a few months later because the first one didn’t go as planned? I know what this feels like. There’s always collateral damage, and a loss of trust and credibility. This is just one of the scenarios that the first micro-shift, from destination to direction, addresses. Or what about thinking that an epic sermon series (or study) was going to open up the heavens, bring about revival, and double your ministry size? If I told you that I’ve never thought this, I’d be a big fat liar. And that’s why in the second micro-shift, from output to input, I share never before published research on a new metric for discipleship.
The fact is, if you’ve been around ministry long enough, you’ll know that there are no perfect models, no one right way of doing ministry or leading a church (I’m talking about church practice, not theology). There are no silver bullets—one-decision solutions that will solve all your woes and unleash your church into a new season of fruitfulness. The only way change happens—significant, long-lasting, macro-level change—is through a series of small decisions, steps, or micro-shifts, that are put into action and completed one at a time. You call ministry leaders in this book to create intentional church cultures.
What are some of the other cultures that we see in churches, and why might those models be unhelpful?
I am convinced that ignorance is the main reason churches in North America, and in many parts of the world, are not experiencing growth—spiritual and numerical. No, I am not talking about pastors having low IQ levels. I’m referring to the type of ignorance where you don’t know why you do ministry the way that you do. More than anything, it’s a lack of self-awareness.
That’s why I designed the Influences Matrix to help ministry leaders start with self- awareness so that they can pinpoint the way their church approaches discipleship from a systems perspective. In the Influences Matrix, there are four different types of churches. Each of these churches approach discipleship from a different perspective. Here’s a quick summary of each.
1. Copy Cat Church
The Copy Cat Church is convinced that they are only one model away from breakthrough. They believe that maturity and growth are a result of pushing the right buttons and offering the right classes in the right order. As a result, they focus on creating a singular defined environment for everyone in their church to take a formulaic set of steps or classes in. Unfortunately, to the church, the leadership seems scattered and indifferent since nothing lasts longer than a few months—or at most—a year.
2. Silver Bullet Church
The Silver Bullet Church coordinates their ministries, implements a well-defined change management strategy, and contextualizes language so that their discipleship pathway makes sense to their people. While this model may seem slick and efficient, one of the glaring issues is that they see disciples as widgets. At the heart of this model is the belief that discipleship is programmatic, so maturity is a result of getting to the end of a set process.
3. Hippie Church
The Hippie Church believes that discipleship can happen anywhere and anytime. This is because they see discipleship as being deeply personal and not formulaic in any way, shape, or form. However, they give way too much credit to the average church member. The church leadership assumes that as long as they teach the right things and have the right beliefs, people will just naturally grow and mature. As a result, there’s a lack of measurement and intentionality—everything is good as long as it works for you.
4. Intentional Church
The Intentional Church is organized and very involved in creating environments where church members can take their next step toward Christ. However, instead of leaving maturity totally up to the individual and hoping that sermons and programs will guide them in the right direction, the Intentional Church has guardrails and a moving sidewalk that their members can choose to use if they want.
If a team of pastors or ministry leaders implements the recommended shifts in this book, what do you expect to be different about their church in five years?
If you’re planting a church, replanting, or revitalizing it, you’ll learn how to build a discipleship pathway from scratch. If, however, these systems are already set up in your church, but you aren’t quite sure if they are the right ones or whether they’re performing at full capacity, then you’ll learn how to clarify and tweak them. In both instances, the goal of this book is to unleash your ministry toward greater Kingdom impact.
How do you hope churches use No Silver Bullets?
I’m humbled that you’re reading this and considering picking up this book. The fact is, I see myself as a ligament in the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:16). For some reason, ever since I was a child, God has used me as a bridge and a connector between individuals, groups, ministries, churches, and cultures. And for that, I’m deeply grateful, because of the number of individuals and ministries that I’ve been blessed to work with. As a result, if you take the time to pick up this book and work through it with your leadership team, I promise you that the path to achieving the God-given vision for your church or ministry will be clearer and more tangible than it’s ever been. Even if you just leveraged the research on discipleship that I present in this book, you will have a clearer understanding as to what actually moves people towards maturity in Christ. Not conjecture, but actual results.
Do you notice yourself looking for the silver bullet instead of implementing small shifts?
–> Join the online community, ask questions, and get answers from seasoned practitioners.
–> Check out some helpful resources:
- Where Do I Go from Here?
- Transitioning Your Church to Missional Communities
- Gospel Fluency Principals and Practices